SAN DIEGO — Two ranch homes in northern San Diego County were destroyed by fire Saturday as Santa Ana winds fanned the flames of a half-dozen major grass fires in the county, and sent temperatures to record highs.
The worst of the fires, located on the southwestern slope of Palomar Mountain in Pauma Valley, had consumed more than 1,200 acres by Saturday night, California Department of Forestry spokeswoman Audrey Hagen said.
She said the fire, which started near the intersection of Quail Road and Rincon Rancho Road, was burning out of control Saturday night, although apparently no other homes were immediately threatened. Besides the two homes, the fire also destroyed an outbuilding and one unknown structure, she said.
Josie Ruiz, who was visiting friends in the area watched the two homes burn. "I was standing on a ridge watching the fire and the man next to me was looking through binoculars. He turned to his wife and said, 'I think there goes our home,' " she said.
Saw Fire Reach Home
Ruiz said she watched as the fire reached one home just as firefighters pulled into the driveway. "There was just nothing they could do," she said. "The wind was really blowing and the house went up as the firemen were getting out of their trucks."
Fire destroyed the second home down the street before firefighters could get there, she said.
Rincado Road resident Patrice Jackson said she and her husband packed up their valuables and were ready to evacuate Saturday night as a handful of spot fires burned eerily around them on the mountain slopes.
"We heard the popping of windows breaking," Jackson said of the homes that caught fire.
CDF officials said they were hopeful that diminishing winds and rising humidity would give firefighters a dose of good luck by morning's light in fighting the blaze as it danced among avocado and citrus groves and rugged canyons.
No injuries were reported.
Record 104 Degrees
The Santa Ana condition sent temperatures soaring and the humidity plummeting Saturday. The temperature reached 104 degrees at Lindbergh Field, a record for Oct. 3, said National Weather Service forecaster Ray Robben. The previous record high for Oct. 3 was 98 degrees, set in 1985. Inland temperatures reached 106 in several locations.
WeatherData, which provides forecasts for The Times, predicted a high at Lindbergh Field today of 102 degrees, and an overnight low of 75, as the Santa Ana condition continues into Monday before diminishing.
Compounding Saturday's soaring temperatures was a drop in humidity, from 87% at 6 a.m. Saturday to 16% by noon, drying out fields of grass and chaparal and sending San Diego-area firemen scampering to a handful of fires around the county.
The first major fire of the day broke out about noon along Highland Valley Road in the San Pasqual Valley, between Rancho Bernardo and Escondido east of Lake Hodges, the San Diego Fire Department reported.
By 9:30 p.m., more than 500 acres had been burned, threatening but not reaching any homes, and was 50 percent contained. For a time the blaze threatened a winery and a mobile home but was turned back by firefighters who were aided by fire retardant and water drops by CDF air tankers and helicopters.
More than 120 firefighters were assigned to the fire, from the CDF and area departments, and officials said most would remain on the fire lines through the night to watch for flare-ups.
Firefighters from CDF and area municipal departments were also dispatched to a 15-acre fire in the Buena Creek area of Twin Oaks Valley on the northern fringe of San Marcos. An agricultural shed and a vehicle were destroyed by the fire before the fire was contained by 6:30 p.m., according to Capt. Michael Marks. About 10 structures were saved from the flames, he said.
CDF firefighters Saturday also battled a 30-acre fire off Lilac Road in Valley Center, but there was no report of structural damage or injuries.
Fire departments in Vista and Rancho Santa Fe also reported grass fires in their cities, but no homes were reported lost.
Blaze at Weapons Range
A small, but smoky, grass fire burned briefly at a weapons impact range off Basilone Road on the northern part of Camp Pendleton, and was extinguished by firefighters at the base, said Camp Pendleton spokesman Sgt. Jose Rodriguez.
San Diego Gas & Electric spokesman Fred Vaughn said an all-time Saturday electricity demand of 2,101 megawatts was recorded at 3 p.m., and that the usage was still rising into the late afternoon.
The previous record for Saturday electricity consumption was 1,891 megawatts, on Aug. 31, 1985. Normal Saturday usage is about 1,600 megawatts, he said.
Power outages were reported from San Ysidro to Fallbrook throughout the day, blamed both on high winds and blowing trees which knocked down electrical lines as well as overloaded transformers burdened by the demand of air conditioners, SDG&E said.
At one point Saturday afternoon, 120,000 customers were without power around San Diego County.